Mirrors of Time – Amber Kao, dancer and choreographer in collaboration with pianist and composer, Ming-Hsiu Yen premiered, Mirrors of Time, on October 18th, 2013, at Taipei National University of the Arts.
The colossal size of the two-story, membership-only wholesale club had me mesmerized before I entered. I was stunned at the sight of the massive warehouse vibrant with business. I walked through the aisles of Costco gathering items off my grocery list, happily noticing familiar brands from back home. Spotting “Pepperidge Farm” and “Ziplock” products momentarily transported me out of Taiwan. I tightly clutched an extra-large sack of string cheese like a prized possession. That evening, I contentedly piled my harvest into a tall tower with the jumbo pack of toilet paper as the base and the super-sized bag of carrot sticks at the top. As I stepped back to gaze at my stash of goods, a rush of familiarity flooded my senses. Oddly, the bulk-sized convenience-driven products reminded me of home. Somehow, large super-sized bundles just didn’t seem to fit with my impressions thus far of Taiwan. The trip to Costco revealed how I had ventured from my previous comforts and habits and highlighted the path that I have begun to forge since my arrival in Taiwan.
In addition to my Costco trip, I have been delightfully inundated with new and intriguing experiences in Taiwan. This first semester has offered opportunities to observe rehearsals at Cloud Gate Dance Theater, develop my Chinese language skills, meet Taiwanese contemporary dancers through classes at Taipei National University of the Arts, and travel to the eastern cost of the island to watch Cloud Gate’s outdoor performance in the beautiful rice fields of Chihshang. In October, shortly after I arrived in Taiwan, I also completed and performed a piece of choreography in collaboration with composer and professor Ming-Hsiu Yen.
My collaborative work with Professor Yen began within weeks of my arrival in Taiwan. This allowed me to capture raw and unfiltered thoughts about the new journey I was about to embark upon this year. This work, titled Mirrors of Time, references the reflective process that occurs when one travels and lives abroad. For me, this work stands to flag the beginning of a something new: a new chapter, new lessons, and new experiences and questions to challenge what I know. With all the excitement and transitions after my arrival in Taipei, I felt the need to begin on familiar grounds for this work. Therefore, I chose to take movements from a solo I created in the States for a project set to J.S. Bach’s first violin partita. My training in music and dance thus far has been based around Western traditions and I felt “at home” dancing these movements. I rearranged the sequence of dance movements from the original solo in order to correspond with the structure of Professor Yen’s new composition for this collaboration. As I restructured the sequence, the movements began to presume a new life of their own. This choreographic process of using known material and reconstructing it into something new reflects the beginning of re-defining my identity.
These first few months have been brimming with new experiences and adventures. For each day here, my biggest dilemma is to decide which class to take and which performance to watch over the weekend. I am constantly learning and meeting new people. I look forward to what the coming semester of this Fulbright grant will bring and how this rich pallet of experiences will feed my artistic growth.